Looking for the perfect coming-of-age story this summer? The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell and Liam James, will make you laugh, swoon and swell your heart .

Summer isn’t complete without some memorable awkwardness and this year’s dysfunctional family comedy, The Way, Way Back, is your ticket to the best coming-of-age story of the year.

The Way, Way Back—directed by Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants— follows 14-year-old Duncan (played by newcomer Liam James) who is forced to spend his summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her pompous boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) and Trent’s daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). A perpetual outcast, Duncan finds refuge at the local water park where he befriends slacker manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell), who helps Duncan embrace and become confident in his awkwardness. On top of everything, Duncan has to deal with his first love with his neighbour, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), who has her own issues to bear.

One of the most interesting roles in the movie is Steve Carell’s Trent, who ditches his good guy persona to play the most annoying person in the room. “I saw this guy as someone who isn’t a bad guy, or doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy, because I think generally speaking, if you think somebody’s a jerk, they don’t think they’re a jerk, Carell told “You know, he’s trying to help this kid. In his mind, he’s doing what this kid needs. By anyone else’s standards, he’s really offensive.”

Similarly, Allison Janney (The Help) plays next-door neighbour and closet alcoholic, Betty, who publicly insults her children, including her lazy eye suffering youngest. Janney defends her character by saying, “You know, people are gonna make fun of his lazy eye and she wants to do it first so he is prepared for it,” Janney told Like Trent, Betty is also unaware that she is doing anything wrong. “She doesn’t think she’s being mean to him, she thinks she’s giving him the best advice, being the best mom ever.”

While Carell’s role will be impressive for being the farthest stretch from what audiences are used to, it’s Sam Rockwell who’ll likely steal the screen (and your heart). “It was pretty obvious that [Owen] was kind of an homage to [Bill Murray in Meatballs] and some others like Walter Matthau from Bad News Bears and Richard Pryor in Bustin’ Loose.” Rockwell told “Those characters influenced me quite a bit.”

Although Murray was the prototype for Rockwell’s character, he made sure to make it his own. “You don’t want to do a carbon copy of a carbon copy, you want to draw from real life,” he explained. “Emotionally, he was masking a lot of vulnerability by always being “on” always doing bits, keeping at bay any sort of feelings of vulnerability or intimacy with other people.”

In the movie, Owen ends up becoming a much needed father figure and mentor to Duncan, which transcended off-screen with his relationship with James, whom he took under his wing. “He was just a really great guy to hang out with,” James told “Anytime in between scenes I was just sitting right next to him and I wanted to learn and I just wanted to hang out with him.”


The Way, Way Back opens July 5 and stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James, Robb Corddry and Amanda Peet.


—By Sarah Khan


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